The Rule of Power in George Orwell’s 1984 and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Harrison Bergeron

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What would you do if you had enough power to control a whole country? Some would only rule to benefit themselves while others might rule for the greater good of the country. In George Orwell’s 1984, the government rules to benefit themselves, which is the best option for the country seen through the eyes of Big Brother and his party. The same thing can be said in the short story “Harrison Bergeron” written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr, In the story, the US is being ruled by agents who follow under the orders of the United States Handicapper General. Both of these governments rule over their citizens who have no say or power whatsoeven Specifically through the works of Orwell’s 1984, and Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, it becomes apparent through the plot that the protagonist rises only to be crushed in the end by the absolute power of a totalitarian government.

In the exposition and rising action of the works, the protagonists are introduced as Winston Smith and Harrison Bergeron and they will begin to rise in their society. The characters live in a world where free thought does not exist, and nothing they do isn’t watched by the government. Starting a rebellion to abolish the very thoughts and lifestyles of them and everything around them was a sense of duty and justice which they had felt needed to carry out. Winston says, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself”. This just goes to show how much the citizens of Oceania have to conceal and keep to themselves in order to avoid the dangers of the party. You truly have to believe that you don’t have a secret in order for the Party to believe in you, if they even do in the first place, of course In addition, “Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and after they have rebelled, they cannot become conscious”  said Winston.

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The quote demonstrates how much control the Party has over everyone When one finally becomes conscious of their surroundings and rebels as a result, they can never become conscious again for the party would not allow it. For example, Winston starts to rebel (after becoming conscious) by writing anti—party thoughts in his diary. Winston writes the words of “DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER” which is a crime in the form of thought, also known as thoughtcrime, Later on he also meets Julia, a girl he likes, and as a result does more anti-party actions such as having sexual intercourse due to lust as well as joining the “Brotherhood” (a so-called secret anti-government organization) Telescreens, large- like TV panels, are put everywhere to monitor their society, These telescreens cannot be turned off and can be used to see and hear everyone at all times Helicopters also fly around and peek at windows during the day so to see if anything suspicious is going on.

If suspicions of thoughtcrime appear, the thought Police would have a visit, and chances are that one will never ever see the light of day through a clear mind again. Later on, Winston will eventually be vanquished at the hands of the Party, later addressed Similarly, Harrison escapes from his facility where they held him, and thus breaks the laws made by the US government “Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen.“ has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the governmentiJ‘le is a genius,“ and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.” While he is “extremely dangerous” in the sense of the his ability to overthrow the oppressive government, he is not a threat to the handicapped citizens, but perhaps a savior or light of hope of some sort. The handicapped citizens are held down by the government as they are given “handicaps”, or equipment that are used for the sole purpose of making everyone equal, at the cost of the individuals wearing them.

It could be heavyweights to suppress one‘s athleticism or a hearing aid that produces atrocious screeching sounds to prevent your mind from creating intelligent thoughts. From the climax of both stories, the protagonists get demolished by the powers of a totalitarian government. After having a spark in desires for justice and consequently forming a rebellion, Winston gets caught by the Thought Police. What he thought was safe was never safe in the first place. The party has a telescreen behind the painting in the room above the antique shop, Mr. Charrington, the one who let Winston use the room for his desires, was a member of the Thought Police. Following being detained, Winston gets tortured by O’Brien. He trusted O’Brien as he was the one who introduced and invited Winston to the so-called “Brotherhood”. He was the first and last final hope of Winston for believing that he was able to truly rebel against the party and become free. With the powers of the party, they are able to brainwash anyone including Winston.

O’Brien uses Winston’s greatest fear of rats to finally sway him to betray the last thing he didn‘t want to betray, the one last thing he had left which he thought the Party couldn’t take away: his loyalty and love for Julia, But all things come to an end, “Do it to JuliaLtt Tear her face off, strip her to the bones Not me! Julia! Not me!“  It is then that Winston understands that he deep down he only cares about himself and no one else. It is then that he takes the first step for the party, not against it. O’Brien also manages to convince Winston truly believes that but that was his reality, not the Parties. The Party‘s reality was anything that they wanted to be. The impossible and the illogical could be the possible and the logical within a matter of weeks or even days. A war with Eurasia could be a war with Eastasia the next week. Comparatively, Harrison‘s noble act of rebellion costs him of his life.

While he is dancing with his empress and later on kissing her, Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, enters into the studio and “with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgunt She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.” The hope and future of the United States of America seemed to disappear along with Harrison as the bullets of despair were entering his body. From the falling action and resolution of the works, the government remains absolute in power. Following the days of nonstop torture, brainwashing, and fear, it is a peaceful day in Oceania for Winstoni But that peace came at a cost, Winston is now a puppet being controlled by the party. He no longer has his desires for Julia or forjustice for that matter. He spends his days drinking gin at a cafe and waking up to the scent of gin, Whenever there was good news of the party in any way, he would be there to cheer and applaud.

He lives his life on a timed clock, a clock that the party controls and can stop at any time, just like with any citizen. The clock runs out at the end of the book and the “long-hoped-for bullet was entering his brain. His life was oven The once known Winston Smith was no more From being a man who hated his life to being a man finding a reason to live, a reason to fight and struggle for, was no longer, The powers of the Party had won in a convincingly fashion where it wasn’t the government that creates the final step in conversion, but the protagonist, “But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.” As it may be, his conscious and subconscious might have already belonged to Big Brother and his party the day he was born. Likewise at the end of the story of “Harrison Bergeron”, the once known rebellion initiated by Harrison never even existed.

All of those who were witnesses didn’t even remember any of it at all clue to the handicaps that the government places on them to restrain them from becoming a threat. Instead, “equality” was being promoted by subduing everyone with these handicaps, which is a lie. Even Hazel, the mother of Harrison, doesn‘t even recall her son‘s death, “You been crying?…yup…what about? I forget something real sad on television,it’s all kind of mixed up in my mind.” The citizens will continue to remain to live their lives at the feet of the US agency just like how the citizens of Oceania will. A protagonist will rise only to be trampled by the supreme powers of a totalitarian government as seen through the works of Orwell’s 1984 and Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”. The protagonists live in a world where hope is a lie, and nothing is but truly despair. But through these constant struggles every day, they are able to gain power of some sort and try to change their future by overthrowing their government.

This, however, does not end well. Winston Smith and Harrison Bergeron end up dying for their cause with a bullet. Winston turns into a puppet before he dies though and following Harrison‘s death, the citizens of the US continue to live their lives as mindless puppets. A totalitarian government will control everything: your belongings, your mind, and your body. What you think is yours isn‘t truly yours, and what you think isn’t yours already belongs to the party. Just know that there isn’t a man or organism alive that isn‘t terrified by the monstrous powers of a totalitarian government and the horrendous events that have yet to come. But let there be a day where a brave soul rises to take down this monster. Let there be a soul who releases the chains that tie them to the ground so that they are free to fly through the sky. That soul, however, was neither Winston nor Harrison.

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The Rule of Power in George Orwell’s 1984 and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Harrison Bergeron. (2023, Apr 15). Retrieved from

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